THE BLOG
06/20/2014 08:46 am ET Updated Aug 20, 2014

Women in Business: Q&A with Tanya Hall, CEO of Greenleaf

Tanya drives Greenleaf's growth efforts and fosters a culture built around serving authors. Prior to her current role, Tanya worked directly with Greenleaf's authors to develop publishing strategies (including multiple New York Times bestsellers); spearheaded growth strategies including Greenleaf's ebook program and the River Grove digital-first imprint; and built Greenleaf's distribution organization, working directly with retailers and wholesalers to develop one of the fastest growing distribution businesses in the industry. Before joining the publishing industry, Tanya worked in digital media and as a television producer for Extra! and E! Cable Networks.

How has your life experience made you the leader you are today?
I realized early on that I needed a career path that I would feel passionate about in order to avoid burnout. I started my career in television, where the hours are long and the competition is intense. I learned so much about media in general during those first few years of on the job experience, much more than I learned in college! Everything we did was on incredibly fast deadlines, and that taught me how to prioritize, how to avoid over-thinking things, and how to plug away to get strong work done, quickly. Most importantly, it also taught me the importance of a solid team united by shared values and trust.

How has your previous employment experience aided your position as the new CEO of Greenleaf Book Group?
After my TV years, I moved over into the digital interactive space and eventually into publishing, where I am now. Everything in media comes down to ideas and stories, and how to maximize consumption whether that means eyes on a screen, bodies in a theater, or books into homes. Understanding this has given me a certain reverence for the creators in our culture, and I believe they should be respected, supported, and treated fairly - a philosophy that drives us at Greenleaf Book Group.

How do you maintain a work/life balance?
I think it's more of a flow than a balance. There are times when I feel so energized about something that I can work at an intense pace for long stretches. I truly enjoy my work so I don't mind when it veers into my weekend, etc. That said, there are certainly times when I need to recharge. At this point in my life I'm pretty good at recognizing which mode I'm in and doing what I need to do to stay happy. I'm a big believer in the benefits of exercise. I do CrossFit five days a week and mix in running and yoga depending on how my body feels.

What have the highlights and challenges been during your time at Greenleaf Book Group?
The highlights will certainly be some of our big milestones, like becoming an INC 500 company and every instance of our books hitting the New York Times bestsellers list. I think we have upwards of 24 of those now!

The challenges orient around the changing publishing landscape. Readers used to discover authors in part by browsing in bookstores, and of course we have far fewer of those today than when I started in this business. All publishers now talk about "discoverability" and how to compete with the increasing media clutter. There are opportunities in these challenges, though - for instance, Greenleaf now has a dedicated program to help authors build their brands and reach a wider audience.

Another ongoing challenge in this business is getting people to read, period. I think Harry Potter was a blessing - so many children read that series and learned the power of a good book. Hopefully, they'll carry that into their adulthood and keep reading.

What advice can you offer those seeking a career in publishing?
Start with an internship - it's the best way to get a feel for what it's like to work in publishing and to learn which roles might be the best fit for you. A lot of the people on the creative side start off by doing freelance work to build up a portfolio and then use that to get a foot in the door at a publishing company.

What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?
While there are certainly external factors that challenge women in the workplace, I think a big issue is that we tend to be modest. Whether that's because we undervalue our own contributions or we just don't think it's proper to brag about ourselves, or both, it results in losing well-deserved credit and recognition.

What are your thoughts on Sheryl Sandberg's Lean In book and movement?
Lean In has sparked a great conversation about women in the workplace and how certain societal expectations impact that experience. Whether you agree with what she says or not, the fact that she has brought this discussion to the forefront is a win for women.

How has mentorship made a difference in your professional and personal life?
Just having someone without "a dog in the fight" - ie, outside of work and direct family - to bounce ideas and issues off is so important. I also appreciate the layer of accountability that comes out of that relationship. If a mentor helps me work through an issue and develop a solution, I know I will have to follow up with the outcome and am more mindful of moving forward.

Which other female leaders do you admire and why?
I have great respect for the trailblazers - Margaret Thatcher, Amelia Earhart, Sandra Day O'Connor, amongst many others - for charting a path. I admire Meg Whitman's accomplishments and I love that Marissa Mayer seems quite comfortable making decisions that are not always popular.

What are your hopes for the future of Greenleaf Book Group?
I see Greenleaf Book Group as much more than a publishing company - in fact, we want to redefine what it means to be a publisher. We nurture and spread ideas, and with the growing number of channels looking for content, it's exciting to think of the opportunities to help our authors share their messages. Increasingly, we're working with authors to create keynote presentations, blog ideas, websites, and other initiatives to build their platforms right alongside the book production process. There's no shortage of people with ideas and stories, and there's no shortage of outlets looking for strong content. We create value where we bridge those two sides, whether via a book or another means.